NIMH Director Thomas Insel Moves to Google Life Sciences

guest post by Kayt Sukel

800px-Thomas_Insel_NIMH_2011Earlier this week, the neuroscience community learned that Dr. Thomas Insel, director of the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH), member of the Dana Alliance’s Executive Committee, and longtime champion of brain research, was leaving his post to take a new position at Google Life Sciences (GLS). Many reacted to Insel’s move with surprise, even shock. How could such an innovative researcher move to the private sector—and to a technology company at that?  But Insel says that technology players are going to play an increasingly important role in our understanding—and management—of mental health disorders. He spoke with the Dana Foundation about why understanding the brain has to be a team effort, the potential power of data analytics, and how all the players can work together to further our goals regarding mental health.

Many were surprised by the news that you are heading to GLS, as opposed to back to academia or to another government position. What drew you to the technology sector?

Insel:  Historically, we’ve seen pharmaceutical companies and biotechnology companies work in this space. But now, technology companies like IBM, Apple, GE, and Google are coming to the table with their own strengths. And that’s a good thing. The fact is, we’re all focused on the same ultimate goal:  What will it take to make a big difference for people with schizophrenia, autism, depression, Alzheimer’s, and other mental health disorders?  We haven’t been able to bend the curve, so far, with the kind of research we’ve historically done. So it became clear to me that we’re going to have to do something very different to make that difference. I can understand that some people get anxious when they see someone from NIH leave to join a tech company. But I’m excited about going to GLS, a place where they are very interested in trying something very different.

Continue reading

International Neuroethics Society 2015 Meeting: The Rise of Mental Health Disorders

Guest blog by Carson Martinez, neuroscience student at New York University and intern for the International Neuroethics Society

INS IMAGEThe National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reports that in 2013 the number of adults in the U.S. with a diagnosable mental disorder within the past year was nearly 1 in 5, or roughly 43 million people. The Institute also reported that almost 10 million American adults, 1 in 25, have serious functional impairment due to a mental illness, such as a psychosis or serious mood or anxiety disorder. These staggering numbers are on the rise not only in the U.S., but also globally. By the year 2020, it is projected that the global burden of mental health disorders will reach 15 percent, and common mental disorders will disable more people than problems arising from AIDS, heart disease, traffic accidents, and wars combined. As mental health issues become increasingly prevalent, there is an urgent need to better understand their ethical, legal, and societal implications, including increasing access to treatment, reducing stigmas, and implementing neuroscience research.

Continue reading

From Birth to Two: the Neuroscience of Infant Development

Photo courtesy of AAAS

Photo courtesy of AAAS

“There are many misconceptions about child development,” said Pat Levitt, Provost Professor at the Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California at the latest Neuroscience and Society lecture convened by the Dana Foundation and American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Some of the most prevalent myths include that humans are born with a blank slate; children are sponges; 80% of development takes place by 3 years old; and that a child’s outcome is predominantly self-determined. Moreover, many consider the mixture of fate, free will, parenting, genes, and environment a mysterious “black box” that ultimately decides a child’s success.

Continue reading

NIH Neuro Start-Up Challenge Winners Announced

Guest post by Kayt Sukel

Late last year, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) partnered with the Center for Advancing Innovation (CAI), a non-profit group specializing in technology transfer, and the Heritage Provider Network, a California-based healthcare provider, to bring some of the NIH’s most promising brain-based technologies to market via a contest:  the Neuro Start-Up Challenge. More than 70 entrepreneurial teams participated in this crowd-sourced competition, working through multiple phases—including an Internet vote open to the public—to convince the event’s organizers and judges that they should be the trusted start-up venture to help the commercialization of one of sixteen innovative inventions.

Continue reading

Improvisations on ‘Improvisation in the Sciences’

Guest post by Ted Altschuler

comebebrainy2015I suggested to my friends at Dana that I would blog on Improvisation in the Sciences, the opening event of Brain Awareness Week New York City, as an improvisation. Being both an artist and a scientist, I thought this could be an engaging way to participate in an evening combining music, science and visual art, but its freewheeling form has run longer than expected!  Here are excerpts. You can read the complete version on the ComeBeBraiNY website, as well as check out its Brain Awareness Week calendar of more than 30 New York events and Dana’s calendar of global events.

Improvisation 3

Antoine Roney, the saxophonist, and his 10-year old son Kojo, a drummer, have started to play. The music is relentless. The father, despite the agitated line he is playing, looks as if he is praying. His son pounds his kit with a terrifying drive. The variegated rhythms follow each other with continued unpredictability, yet their progress seems inevitable, the ingredients of great improv. Usually talks open with someone fumbling as they try to sync their laptop with a projector. Now this is an opening to a neuroscience talk! Continue reading


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 147 other followers

%d bloggers like this: